While Jorge Lorenzo took an early lead and walked away with a convincing victory, it was the late-race charge of Valentino Rossi to take second place from MotoGP rookie Marc Márquez and then the ensuing battle of veteran vs. newbie that highlighted the MotoGP season opener at Losail in Qatar. Rossi passed the Repsol Honda rider late in the race, only to see Márquez sneak back around the hard charging Italian. However, Rossi, got second place back and hit the stripe just .211 seconds ahead of 20-year-old Márquez.
The much-awaited start to the 2013 campaign came under lights as the Losail International Circuit celebrated its tenth MotoGP™ event. World Champion Lorenzo aimed to repeat his performance of last year by taking victory from pole position. Márquez’s much-awaited first race would begin from sixth on the grid.
As the lights went out, a scorching start by Dani Pedrosa saw the Repsol Honda Team rider shoot up into second place by Turn 1, hoping to challenge Lorenzo who began to pull away on his Yamaha Factory Racing bike. The same could not be said for Pedrosa’s teammate Márquez, who endured a slow getaway and dropped to eighth.
On Lap 2, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham became the first retirement of 2013 as Márquez looked to recover. By Lap 4, the 20-year-old Spaniard and youngest rider in the field had already passed Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and then pulled a move on Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, at Turn 1. Lorenzo already led Pedrosa by 1.6 seconds and would eventually stretch his advantage by half a second per lap as those behind him became engaged in a dramatic battle.
By the halfway point on Lap 11, Márquez was very much involved in a duel with teammate Pedrosa, as Crutchlow looked to take advantage; it was at this point that Rossi’s charge took off. In his first race back with Yamaha, the Italian had run wide on the second lap and plummeted back to where he started – seventh place. Moves came on Dovizioso and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who proceeded to crash while chasing down the seven-time premier class title winner.
Also failing to make the finish were GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring, Tech 3’s Bradley Smith, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, who had been the lead CRT runner at Losail last year.
Márquez overtook Pedrosa on the 17th tour of the 22, leaving the latter to deal with Crutchlow as Rossi joined combat. The Italian stormed past the Englishman in a brave move between Crutchlow and the pit wall, only for the Tech 3 man to misjudge his braking point and run off-track at Turn 1. Rossi’s charge continued with maneuvers on Pedrosa and Márquez on Laps 19 and 20 respectively, only for the debutant to fight back as the pair went head-to-head.
Rossi would come out on top by just two tenths of a second, with Márquez becoming the first MotoGP™ rookie to seal a rostrum result in his first race since Lorenzo finished second position at Losail five years ago. Tonight, Lorenzo’s eventually winning margin was 5.9 seconds.
Pedrosa and Crutchlow completed the top five from Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden on the pair of Ducati Team machines, Pramac Racing newcomer Andrea Iannone and his teammate Ben Spies. Power Electronics Aspar won CRT honours, with reigning class Champion Aleix Espargaró finishing 11th overall and leading home teammate Randy de Puniet by 6.6 seconds.
Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá rose from 22nd on the grid to 13th, having suffered electrical problems in qualifying, as rounding up the 18 finishers were PBM’s Yonny Hernández, Avintia’s Hiroshi Aoyama, Forward’s Claudio Corti, PBM’s Michael Laverty and Ioda’s Lukáš Pešek who on Saturday had qualified 15th for his debut.
In two weeks’ time MotoGP™ will head to pastures new, as the 18-round World Championship travels to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Intro by Inside Motorcycles, remainder courtesy MotoGP.com